Thursday, 27 February 2014 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brethren in Christ, today we are confronted with the reality of this world, that is the corrupting nature of wealth, affluence, and possessions. This does not necessarily mean that being wealthy is wrong, or being rich means one is automatically condemned. That is the flawed argument of those who did not understand the meaning of the Lord’s words.

This corruption instead befalls those whose faith are not strong in the Lord. The riches and material possessions themselves are pure and not faulty in themselves. It is how we as those who own them and use them that turn them into evil purposes. Remember though that wealth too can be turned into good purposes, as much as it can be turned for evil.

Indeed, what is important is that we keep ourselves pure and strong in the faith. Do not let the devil to come in and corrupt our hearts and minds. If we do so, then even if we have things and riches of this world, our heart will be more resistant to such attempts by the evil one to corrupt us. Remain pure! And remain faithful! Those are the messages that Christ wanted us to know, the key message that He wanted to deliver to us in the Gospel today.

Again, we cannot take the words of Christ at mere face value, or literally. We have  to understand what He truly meant. Does He mean that we have to literally chop off our hands if they have caused us to sin? The hands themselves are not at fault, just like our worldly wealth and riches. Does cutting our hands stop us from sinning, especially in our hearts?

Yes, brethren, sin originates in our hearts, which is then committed by our limbs and bodies, but this does not in itself condemn these to destruction. Remember brethren, that our hands and legs too can do great deeds, helping others and fulfilling the will of God. If we have chopped them off just because of one sin or a few, how are we going to use them for good things?

The key here is to genuinely change our hearts. We have to resolve to change our hearts, to turn our attention towards the Lord. We have to be consistent in our devotion to the Lord, and that begins from the heart, just as sins also begin from the heart. That is why we ought to seek profound change in ourselves, committing ourselves to a total change, that we will from now on, change ourselves to be truly servants and disciples of the Lord.

Let us change the purpose of whatever possessions we have with us. Let us change how we use whatever blessings and graces that had been granted us, that we may use it for good purposes. Brothers and sisters in Christ, be good, do good, and profess what is good, so that the Lord who sees what is good in us will grant us His blessings.

May the Lord bless us with His love, and may we all also be able to return Him the same love and devotion. Let us all profess our faith and love for He who has always been faithful and loving to us from the very start. May the Lord continue to guide us in our lives and strengthen our devotion towards Him. God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Be righteous, be humble and be faithful. These are the key takeaways from today’s readings, from both the letter of St. James, urging us to seek the Lord and His will in our lives, and to be humble, and in the Gospel today, taken from the Gospel of St. Mark, that we may have a genuine faith, that is like the faith of a young children.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are presented with the things that were reality at the time of Jesus, and indeed is still a reality even today. We squabble and fight with our own friends and neighbours, because we desire certain things, be it power, affluence, wealth, friendships, and many other things, and we as mankind, has in our nature to be greedy and to desire for more and more things.

And in the end we often miss the point on what it means to be the children and disciples of the Lord. We often seek power and glory, position and honour, that we often forget about the Lord. We did not keep faithful to His commandments but instead walk in our own ways, that is following the ways of this world, which include violence, hatred, prejudice and many other things.

We follow the ways of the world often because it offers us very many things, things that look beautiful and tempting in our eyes. It offers us influence, power, authority, wealth and other things that may prevent us from reaching out to the truth in God. The reality is that, while these things seem to be very enjoyable and pleasurable to us, they are merely temporary. The pursuit of these things will not bear us much fruits, other than bitterness and regret at the end of our lives.

For if we make friends with the ways of the world, in all its corruption by evil, then we are no longer following God or remain as His disciples. We instead walk in the rebellious path of the devil. And God does not want this to happen to us, and that is why He sent to us Jesus His own Son, to straighten the path for us and to make us aware what it truly means to be followers of the Lord.

We have to be genuine in our faith and love for God, and we have to change our mindset and actions, that we no longer adhere to the ways of the world, but instead follow the Lord in His ways and walk in His ways. We cannot be half-hearted in our faith, because we must be firm and strong in resisting the temptations and challenges of this world.

We have to put away our pride and dull the edge of our human ego. At the same time, we should also remain humble, and keep strong this humility at all times in our life. Pride and arrogance often separates us from the Lord, and they act as barriers preventing us from accessing the Lord, keeping us away from His salvation. Humility, on the other hand, allow us to open ourselves to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us heed the Lord and His call. Let us not turn our back towards Him, and let us give Him our full attention without divide. We have to dedicate ourselves to the Lord, and practice it in our words, deeds and actions. As the prophet Micah said, let us walk humbly with our God, and let us follow Him with all of our hearts. Amen.

Thursday, 20 February 2014 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

James 2 : 1-9

My brothers and sisters, if you truly believe in our glorified Lord, Jesus Christ, you will not discriminate between persons. Suppose a person enters the synagogue where you are assembled, dressed magnificently and wearing a gold ring; at the same time, a poor person enters dressed in rags.

If you focus your attention on the well-dressed and say, “Come and sit in the best seat,” while to the poor one you say, “Stay standing or else sit down at my feet,” have you not, in fact, made a distinction between the two? Have you not judged, using a double standard?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters, did God not choose the poor of this world to receive the riches of faith and to inherit the kingdom which He has promised to those who love Him? Yet you despise them! Is it not the rich who are against you and drag you to court? Do they not insult the Holy Name of Christ by which you are called?

If you keep the Law of the Kingdom, according to Scripture : ‘Love your neighbour as yourself,’ you do well; but if you make distinctions between persons, you break the law and are condemned by the same law.

Saturday, 8 February 2014 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins and Saints, or Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, our Lord had always loved us and He always cares for us, no matter what. That was why Jesus was so moved with compassion, that despite His fatigue after preaching to the people for so long, being confronted with even more of the faithful people, He continued on serving them and preaching to them.

Lord Jesus and His love for His people is the example of how much God loves us and cares for us, and despite our constant rebellion and disobedience against His will, He wants us to be with Him again, and that was why He sent His Son Jesus into this world, that through Him, His intentions and love could be made clear, and through Him, we can find a way to reach the Lord who loves us.

We see how people sought Jesus even across mountains and lakes, and across rivers and deserts. They did not mind hunger, thirst, or fatigue, and wanted to hear more from the Lord, the words of the Good News and salvation, the medicine for their soul. And that is how sad the state of our world today, if we can compare it to how it was at the time of Jesus as said in the Gospel today.

Our world is obsessed with all things, everything except God’s love. Many sought wealth and power, and affluence and position in the society. Yet, look at what Solomon in the first reading had sought. He sought none of them. What he sought was wisdom from the Lord, to be able to discern good from evil, and therefore from there, know what ways would please the Lord, that is doing what is good.

The world today was rife with desire and greed. People sought not love but power. People sought not sincerity but wealth. People sought not peace but hatred and violence. We have often forgotten that all of these are obstacles to the true treasures of the world. The true treasures are love, hope, and faith, the fundamental virtues and elements of our belief in the Lord.

God loves us and He is like a Father to us, and indeed, as we pray the Pater Noster, God is indeed our Father, as He had sent His own Son Jesus into this world to be with us, to be one of us, that we too may call the Lord our God Father, just as Jesus called Him Father. And as all fathers do, He will love us and care for us with all the blessings He can give us.

The problem with this world today is that everyone simply had forgotten all of these facts, hidden under layers of the devil’s lies and deceit, and hidden under all the tempting pleasures and happiness offered by the world in wealth, affluence, and power. We have forgotten God’s love and we do not realise that He always has His eyes and His heart aimed at us.

Today we celebrate the feast of two saints of the Church, that is St. Jerome Emiliani, an Italian priest who lived just five centuries ago, and St. Josephine Bakhita, who also lived at about the start of the modern era and was notably a former slave. Both of them were great saints who dedicated their lives to God, and serving mankind with love, reminding them of God’s own love, which was reflected in all of their actions.

St. Jerome Emiliani was a dedicated worker of the faith, who showed his zeal to God through love. He served the sick and the poor, even with his own expense and support, ensuring that these people, considered least in the society might enjoy the love of God as reflected through his own actions. He helped the sick during epidemics and times of difficulties, and his works of love had helped mankind to open their eyes and be touched again by God’s divine love.

St. Josephine Bakhita was a former slave, who was converted into the faith and liberated from her slavery. She chose to join the religious congregation of the Canossian sisters, where she remained and served the people of God with love and zeal, much as St. Jerome Emiliani had done. St. Josephine Bakhita’s love for God and for her fellow mankind was pure and true.

These two saints had shown us how our actions too can bring love to others, and none other than God’s own love whom He had shared with us. We cannot keep the love of God within us but we ought to share them with the world, that many will be reawakened from their slumber and realise once again the love that God has for all of them.

Just as God has awakened the wisdom in Solomon, let us all pray, brethren, that He will also awaken in many, the seed of faith, that combined with our actions of love, they too may heed God’s call to abandon all that is wicked and unworthy, changing their ways and therefore be one of us, worthy of God’s eternal kingdom. God be with us all and all our brethren, all mankind. Amen.

Saturday, 8 February 2014 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins and Saints, or Saturday Mass of our Lady)

1 Kings 3 : 4-13

The king used to sacrifice at Gibeon, the great high place; on the altar there he had offered a thousand burnt offerings. It was in Gibeon, during the night, that YHVH appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what you want Me to give you.”

Solomon answered, “You have shown Your servant David my father a great and steadfast love because he served You faithfully and was righteous and sincere towards You. You have given him proof of Your steadfast love in making a son of his sit on his throne this day.”

“And now, o YHVH my God, You have made Your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a young boy who does not know how to undertake anything. Meantime, Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen – a people so great that they can neither be numbered nor counted.”

“Give me, therefore, an understanding mind in governing Your people that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to govern this multitude of people of Yours?”

YHVH was pleased that Solomon had made this request. And He told him, “Because you have requested this rather than long life or wealth or even vengeance on your enemies; indeed, because you have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I shall grant you your request. I now give you a wise and discerning mind such as no one has had before you nor anyone after you shall ever have.”

“I will also give you what you have not asked for, both wealth and fame; and no king shall be your equal during your lifetime.”

Monday, 3 February 2014 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Ansgar, Bishop (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Bishops)

Today we witnessed the exorcism conducted by Jesus our Lord on the possessed man of Gerasenes, and how even the evil spirits obeyed the Lord and feared His authority. In today’s readings, we listen about the concept of authority and power, and how mankind had interacted with these across time, with the story of the rebellion of Absalom, the son of David, and how Jesus cast out the demons from the man.

The authority of Jesus was clear. He was the Son of Most High God as the demons themselves proclaimed. He was the Word of God made flesh, incarnate into Man in Jesus through Mary His mother. The evil spirits, the Legion feared Him because they knew who He was, even if mankind could not recognise who He was.

The evil spirits feared Jesus as Lord not because He has wealth, influence, or power that denote greatness in our human eyes. The greatness of the Lord is not measured in terms of human power and glory. What is power and glory to us mankind have no meaning and are nothing before the Lord our God. Jesus Himself showed us all this through His own actions.

Jesus was great not just because He was already the Lord and Almighty God, but because in His actions He showed the perfection of God’s love and mercy to us all. He was great because even though He has power, majesty, and authority, He chose to come down and be our servant, that through His works, we may have new hope in Him, and as our Shepherd, He guided us through the narrow gates towards salvation.

As Jesus mentioned in His Last Supper with the disciples, that the true meaning of leadership is service. A leader must be the servant of the people whom he or she leads, and the power and authority that the leader has been given must not be misused. True authority does not equal oppressing others or destroying those whose ideas or views not necessarily in line with our own views and opinions.

The Lordship and authority of Jesus is one of humility and service, and He did not boast of His miracles and achievements, while mankind like us must have been tempted to glorify ourselves or seek praise and glory from others for what we have done, gaining credits for our works. The irony is that, it is always the devil and the evil spirits in league with him that clamoured to proclaim Him! Yes, such as the evil spirits that inhabited that man of Gerasenes.

The authority of Jesus in casting out the numerous demons, the Legion, from that man showed His power and sovereignty over all things, be it angel, man, or demons, and is a testimony clear enough for all of us today to hear. We are fortunate to be able to witness this testimony through the Holy Gospels written by the Holy Apostles, who witnessed what happened first hand on that day.

If we trust in the Lord and in His power, then we will have no need to worry, for our Lord will be with us and He will take care of us well, and He shows us how to live a good and faithful life. The contrast we can see in the first reading today, which is centred on the civil war in Israel, between king David, the faithful servant of God and his own son, Absalom.

Absalom as the oldest son of king David was driven by his youth and ambitions, and he aspired to be the king of Israel, even though his father was still the reigning king and the chosen one of the Lord. Absalom succumbed to the taste of power and human glory, and that doomed him, causing him to rise up in rebellion against his own father.

As the story would go, Absalom was defeated in that war, and he lost his life in the process. The example of Absalom and David in today’s reading showed the frail nature of human power and glory. Power and glory in human terms are just temporary. We cannot hope to depend on our human power, as if we depend on them as Absalom had done, then we shall fail.

In a way even king David also had a part of blame on himself in this matter. David as a king as was common among the kings of his time, had many wives and children. Having more wives and children was associated with power and glory, and the more wives and children one had, the more powerful and prestigious was one seen by their people and their neighbouring countries.

Trusting in human power and authority was what had made David, the faithful servant of God, to err in some occasions. First of which was his plot to kill Uriah after committing adultery with the latter’s wife, Bathsheba, despite Uriah’s great loyalty to him, and then David’s sin of wanting to count the number of the people of Israel and Judah, as if he revelled in the great glory God had given him and was immersed in a moment of self-glorification and self-praise.

And David met his troubles because of what he had done, be it the rebellions of his sons and their mischievous behaviours, or the disease and pestilence that swept across the land and killed many, as the sign of God’s displeasure. This is proof that trusting in human and worldly power does not bring us good. Rather than be proud of our own power, ability, and achievement, we should rather trust in the Lord and walk in His ways.

Today, brethren, we celebrate the feast of two saints of the Church, that is of St. Blaise and St. Ansgar. St. Blaise was the well known patron for throat based diseases, which feast day usually saw the traditional blessing of the throats with two crossed candles. St. Blaise was a renowned physician who went around many places to heal peoples, often with miraculous results, and people flocked to him seeking the consolation of the flesh as well as the soul.

St. Blaise was a faithful follower of the Lord, and practiced his faith truthfully in the works that he had done, but when Christians were persecuted by the last persecution of Christians by Emperor Licinius of the Eastern Roman Empire, he was arrested by the governor of his province and subsequently was tortured and martyred for his faith in the Lord.

Meanwhile St. Ansgar was an Archbishop who lived in northern part of Germany during the late Dark Ages, and was renowned as the Apostle of the North, for his works of evangelisation, bringing the Good News of the Lord to many peoples in the northern Europe, where paganism still dominated most of the people. St. Ansgar tirelessly worked for the cause of the Lord and gained many converts, even baptising lords and kings of the pagans.

Despite his position in the Church, St. Ansgar did not have an easy work ahead of him. Often times many of his supporters withdrew their support from him, and St. Ansgar had to proceed with his missions with great difficulties. Yet, St. Ansgar persevered and he never complained. And the Lord gave him the help he needed through various sources, and he prevailed in his missions.

The examples of St. Blaise and St. Ansgar show that if we walk upright in the path of the Lord and if we remain faithful to Him and trust always in Him, then we have no need to fear at all about the work we are to do, our about our lives. God will care for us and He will protect us. He has all the power and authority, and no evil shall dare to approach us, for they know who they will be dealing with if they mess with us.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today therefore put our trust in God, and keep our faith in Him strong, especially avoiding the bad influences of this world, taming our greed and desire, particularly for power, authority, and influence among many others, and seek only for the Lord. May our Lord therefore be with us, and guide us to walk upright at all times in His ways, that we may never again fall into sin. Amen.

Friday, 20 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-Sang, and Companions, Martyrs (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the need of loving God with all our hearts, that we place Him foremost before all other things, loving Him with all our might. For He had come into the world to ransom us from evil. He had given of Himself to all of us, as an example we all also ought to follow. That we have to love Him just as He had loved us, and love our brethren, without exception, in the same way.

For Christ had called us to be good, and to do good for everyone’s sake. He had taught us how to love, the same love He had shown us when He hung on that cross on Calvary. To Him had been granted authority and power, and He healed all from their afflictions, physically and spiritually. These people were among those who were mentioned in the Gospel today, particularly Mary Magdalene, whom He had liberated from the possession of Satan. Many of His disciples and Apostles also were once great sinners, even murderers and tax collectors.

He had called them from the darkness, that they would have a new life in Him, and through Him, just as He calls all of us to follow Him. This means to leave our old sinful and conceited selves behind, and do what the Lord had asked us to do. We ought to leave things that corrupt ourselves behind, and put on a new clothes of purity, as it had been on the day we were baptised, when we took up a new life, a clean and pure slate of life.

In the first reading today, St. Paul mentioned an important element of sin, that is possessions, meaning material possessions, in the form of visible and invisible wealth, in money and all its manifestation. It is first important to note, brethren, that money and possessions themselves are not innately evil. It is how they are gained and how they are utilised that can potentially bring about great evil.

Money can be used for good and noble purposes, as well as for evil and wicked purposes. It can be something that bring about blessings and life, and in the same way, also something that bring about destruction and suffering. That is why we must be careful on how we approach and utilise our money and our possessions. Remember always, that money and wealth are themselves not intrinsically evil, that it is we who can make that difference between good and evil from what we have.

For example, with the same money or wealth, we can choose, whether we spend it lavishly on the latest fashion items and gadgets that we do not really need. It is a really bad habit for some of us, considering the recent developments of the smartphone technology, that every time a new smartphone model comes out, we are always first to queue and get our hands on it. Remember again, smartphones can be very useful for good purposes, but it is how we use them and think of them, that differentiate between good and evil.

As in the earlier mentioned case, the money can be better used for other purposes, not only for charity, but even for ourselves, for our education, welfare, and improvement, basically, for many different things that we could not do, if we had spent all the money on these unnecessary excessiveness. Judge wisely therefore, brethren, what we are to do with our possessions, for they are God’s blessing to us. Let us not misuse these gifts that had been granted to us.

Today, we celebrate the feast of martyrs of Korea, St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and their companions. They were among the first Christians of Korea, convert from their native religions into the faith of the Lord. Korea at that time was tightly closed against any form of external influences, especially Christianity, and the practice of the faith was strictly forbidden by the state.

Christians were harshly persecuted and forced to renounce their ‘alien’ faith and abandon the practices seen by the Korean government to be barbaric in nature. Many Christians were imprisoned and tortured and not few lost their lives for the faith. They are the ones we are commemorating today, the martyr saints of Korea, especially St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, the first martyr saint of Korea, and St. Paul Chong Ha-sang.

They stayed faithful to the Lord despite immense pressure by the authorities forcing them to abandon their faith, and preferred suffering for the Lord even until they met their death, staying true to the Lord to the end. They gave their life, so that more and more people would be inspired by their example, and stay faithful to the Lord and did not apostasize, despite the pressure or the temptations offered to them to abandon the Lord for worldly incentives.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, after listening to the word of God, and the advice on how we need to make sure that we use the blessings granted to us for the right cause, and especially after witnessing the life story of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang, and the other martyr saints of Korea, let us be motivated, brethren, to do what is good in the eyes of the Lord.

May the Lord protect us and continue to bless us to be strong, to be the true witnesses of the Gospel, as the martyr saints of Korea had done. God be with us always. Amen.